You have been told by colleagues and mentors that you have leadership potential. You realize that leaders are made, not born, and for the past year or two you have been honing your leadership skill set. You’ve done a lot of reading and observing. You have taken leadership seminars and inventories. You can’t wait to put what you have learned to work.
Finally, the opportunity arises. You are assigned the job of project leader. You are given a great deal of flexibility, but there is a firm deadline of six months to completion. You are excited and can’t wait to begin the project.
Fast forward six months. The deadline has come and gone, and the project still isn’t done. You can’t believe you failed. What did you do wrong? You begin to think that maybe you aren’t leadership material after all.
There are many reasons for leadership failure. Most likely, somewhere along the line you lost credibility. The problem could have started with the vision. Could you clearly see the end point — where you needed to go? Could you translate that vision to your team so they could support your vision and enthusiastically follow your lead?
Were you also able to communicate the strategies necessary for success and get team buy-in for them? Were the milestones easily measurable? What approach did you take when a goal or timeline was missed? Did you have a way to acknowledge and reward team success as you went along? Could the team depend on you to be a consistent leader, or did you change your mind at critical times or when you didn’t know what to do next?
Is it possible you left your ego get in the way by insisting that the team follow your original plan even to the detriment of the project? Did you consider their concerns and suggestions, or did you misuse your power as the leader? Perhaps most importantly, did you avoid asking for advice or assistance when things weren’t going well because you wanted to succeed on your own?
There are many ways leaders can lose credibility with their teams. Among them are a lack of clear vision, an inability to motivate others, inconsistency, and a misuse of power. If you find you struggle in one or more of these areas, seek some mentoring or expert advice, and acquire some additional training. Leaders learn from their experiences, both positive and negative. Learn from your failure, and you will be a much stronger leader in the future.